grandpa, son, and grandson playing chess in the parkThe number of people living with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple in the coming decades, reaching 14 million Americans in the coming decades.

Because hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline and dementia, the number of people living with hearing impairment is also likely to climb.

Manatee Ear Center in Bradenton, Florida reminds those of us with hearing loss that we don’t have to accept that link as an inevitable fate – research also shows that using hearing aids can decrease the risk of cognitive decline. Further, taking care of our eyesight can also help keep our brains sharp – research has found that having cataract surgery can reduce the risk of developing dementia.

An expansive research project called the Health and Retirement Study assessed about 2,000 older Americans before and after they started wearing hearing aids.

Participants were asked to remember a list of 10 words, both immediately after hearing them and after being asked to complete other tasks. Researchers checked cognitive decline rates both before and after hearing aids were introduced. It found that using hearing devices cut the rate of cognitive decline by 75%.

Another research effort, the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, discovered that correcting vision problems can also help fight Alzheimer’s and dementia. Among these participants, cognitive decline was 50% slower after cataract surgery.

Why the link between the senses and brain health? While scientists aren’t certain of the correlation, there are a few theories of why hearing and vision are tied to cognitive fitness.

Visual and hearing impairments cause the brain to work harder to see and hear what’s going on around them, which can put extra stress on it. This extra work leaves less cognitive ability available for tasks such as memory.

Another line of thinking is that these impairments can isolate people from friends and family because they struggle to communicate effectively. This more solitary existence provides less stimulation to the brain. As the brain sits more idle, brain health deteriorates from the lack of communication.

Because cognitive function doesn’t come back once it’s lost, early detection and treatment of hearing loss is key. If you or a loved one is struggling with hearing loss, call Manatee Ear Center in Bradenton, Florida at 941-745-1518 or request an appointment online.